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Quote of the Day - The report of my death was an exaggeration. - Mark Twain
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News Flash: Huckleberry Finn and Jim Not Guilty

You remember Huckleberry Finn and his friend, Jim?  They find a corpse, but don't report it to the authorities.  Did they violate Missouri law all those years ago?  Is Mark Twain rolling over in his grave?

Twain fans will be relieved to know the Missouri Supreme Court doesn't think so.  The story has a modern-day twist:  a Missouri man convicted for doing so had that conviction overturned based on Twain's tale.  An appellate court used the high court's citation to Twain's story to apply the law cited above, and held that William Jones, Jr. did not have an obligation to report to authorities finding the corpse of his friend, Justin Hazlett, lying dead, apparently shot.  Jones found Hazlett's deceased body outside Hazlett's home, but didn't tell anyone.  Jones was convicted, and sentenced to four years.  Like Huck and Jim, he's now free to float on the Mississippi.

In 2002, a Missouri husband failed to report finding his wife's body, and he was also convicted of violating the statute, but his conviction was not overturned.  The distinction lies in Twain's story, apparently.  According to the Missouri decision reversing Jones' conviction, only relatives have that duty, not friends or strangers.  Huck and Jim weren't guilty because they didn't know the person who died.

I'm glad to know all these years later than Huck and Jim weren't criminals in the eyes of Missourians. 

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Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, August 19, 2005 at 09:11 Comments Closed (1) |
 
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